Hamleys toy stores sold for £60m to French group

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The Independent Online

A French company has acquired Hamleys, the 252-year old toy retailer, in a deal worth £60m and vowed to press ahead with its international expansion.

Groupe Ludendo – a family-owned business with more than 300 stores in five countries, including France, Spain and Belgium – has bought Hamleys after the winding up committee of the failed Icelandic bank Lansbanki put its majority shareholding in the chain up for sale.

The sale brings to an end a tumultuous period for Hamleys, which was founded in 1760 but has traded at its emporium on London's Regent Street since 1881. It had faced dark days under the control of the defunct Icelandic investor Baugur, which collapsed in early 2009, but the store has subsequently turned around its performance under its chief executive Gudjon Reynisson.

Jean-Michel Grunberg, the chairman of Ludendo, which owns the La Grande Recre and Fran Carl Weber retail brands, described Hamleys as "one of the most respected toy retailers in the world".

He added: "Hamleys will give us the platform to accelerate our international development starting with the UK and into new markets. We have every intention of maintaining this unique brand and what it stands for, and building on its successful international development."

The family of David Rowland, the property developer and Tory donor, have sold their minority stake in Hamleys as part of the £60m transaction, which includes debt. Hamleys' management have reinvested in the toy retailer, which has 22 stores, including in Dublin, Edinburgh, Dubai, India and Russia. The retailer grew its underlying profits by 21 per cent to £5.6m for the year to 26 March 2011, according to its latest accounts. Mr Reynisson said: "Groupe Ludendo is a strong partner for Hamleys."

Groupe Ludendo was founded by Maurice Grunberg in 1977, after the launch of a new brand, La Recre, which later became La Grande Recre.